Game Scout: Texans at Cardinals

Derek Harper, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchangeNovember 7, 2013

Houston Texans (2-6) at Arizona Cardinals (4-4)
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, at University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz. - TV: CBS
*TV announcers: Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots
*Keys to the game: For an undersized quarterback who went undrafted amid concerns about his arm strength, Houston's Case Keenum continues to put his receivers in position to make plays. He is averaging 10.5 yards per completion and 31.4 percent of his completions during his two starts have gone for 25-plus yards. Arizona loves to blitz and will test Keenum's ability to make quick - and correct - reads. Ideally, the Texans would lean on the ground game, but Arian Foster is battling a bad back and Ben Tate has sore ribs, so more of the gameplan could fall on Keenum's arm. Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is working on ways to improve his offense's 31.6 third-down conversion percentage and help the Cardinals sustain more drives. The best route is to get production out of RBs Rashard Mendenhall and rookie Andre Ellington. While Houston's defense has produced just eight turnovers this season, the Texans do have a swarming defensive line that should have little trouble getting to immobile QB Carson Palmer.
*Matchup to watch - Texans DL J.J. Watt vs. Cardinals RG Paul Fanaika: Watt will find a mismatch pretty much anywhere he lines up across from Arizona's line. He does much of his damage from the interior, and Fanaika has been a particularly big weak link on an offensive line that has struggled across the board.
*Player spotlight - Cardinals FS Tyrann Mathieu: The diminutive rookie playmaker is officially listed as the starter. He has started the past five games, sometimes as the nickel corner.
*Fast facts: The Texans are the first of three consecutive AFC South opponents the Cardinals will face. They play at Jacksonville next week and then home against the Colts. ... Palmer had a 96.0 passer rating in his career against Houston.
The Texans are riding a six-game winning streak with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips serving as interim head coach in Gary Kubiak's absence. Houston snaps the skid with QB Case Keenum continuing to avoid major mistakes and hitting receivers in stride, leading to yards after the catch Arizona's offense is lacking.
*Our pick: Texans 21-20